Michigan point guard Trey Burke has had a lot to think about this offseason: his decision to stay in Ann Arbor, the loss of his two senior leaders, the transfer of a starter and five freshmen to incorporate into what will be his team.
Naturally, questions linger for him about what this new team could do, especially after an opening-round loss to Ohio in the NCAA Tournament
But Burke plans on answering those questions with championships this season -- won with help from his freshmen.
"The freshmen look great, we have a lot of experience coming back," Burke said. "We have a really good team. … Everyone has that chemistry from last year with the freshmen coming in. I really think we're national championship contenders."
The experience returning from last season will be Burke, coupled with guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and forward Jordan Morgan. But outside of that, minutes are open for the taking. And many of the freshmen are in contention for those spots.
The Michigan basketball recruiting class ranked No. 14 2012. It's headlined by five-star guard Glenn Robinson and four-stars Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas, and is rounded out with Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht.
Those five didn't wait to make an impression in Ann Arbor, showing how much of a competition it will be for minutes.
In the first open gym scrimmages when the freshmen arrived on campus, they took on the upperclassmen. And to say they took care of business would be an understatement.
"I won't say they destroyed us, but they were beating us 11-6, 11-7," Hardaway Jr. said. "There was one game, me and J-Mo just looked at each other and we were like, 'We need to show them what Big Ten basketball is really about.' And then we beat them 11-1, 11-2. They got their time, but it won't happen again."
Outside of Hardaway Jr. and Morgan's lessons on the court, the freshmen have received nothing but praise from the upperclassmen.
Burke said Stauskas knocked down 78 3-pointers in five minutes in practice the other day, coming just short of a Michigan record. He then compared LeVert to Kevin Durant, saying they have all the same tools on the floor.
Hardaway Jr. complimented Robinson's athleticism, McGary's versatility and Albrecht's work ethic. But what unites all the freshmen is their desire to get better as a team, Hardaway Jr. said.
"Just seeing them out there practice, they're just humble guys when it all comes down to it," Hardaway Jr. said. "They want to learn. They don’t talk back. They want to do whatever it takes to win. I think coming into freshman year, that's good."
Hardaway Jr. went on to discuss how impressed he has been with how well the freshmen have managed their time between classes and basketball.
And while they might not be the Fab Five, come game time for the Wolverines, if what Hardaway Jr. and Burke say is true, this could be one of the most impactful freshman classes Michigan has ever had.
"I think this freshman class is really special," Burke said. "I don't think a lot of people really know what we've got. When the season comes, it should show."